Rising Senior Completes Internship as Health Care Journalist with DC Newspaper

photo of John smiling with arms crossed as he leans against a fence overlooking water

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John Woolley (C’22) spent his summer working for Street Sense Media in Washington, DC to gain experience as a political reporter. After writing about health care for the paper, Woolley says that he has a deeper understanding of what it means to do journalism. 

“This internship has made me reflect on what I mean when I say that I want to be a political reporter,” Woolley explains. “Street Sense Media has been a really great exercise in the fundamentals: Why does this story matter to people? How will it change how they live day to day? How do you break down policies and systems into something readable and digestible?”

A Passion for Political Reporting

Cover of Street Sense Paper

A government major with minors in journalism and linguistics, Woolley has known he wanted to pursue political or policy reporting professionally since he joined Georgetown’s student publication the Voice in 2018. Woolley never did journalism prior to joining the organization, but fell in love with it after learning from and working alongside other members, who are now some of his closest friends.  

Woolley chose Street Sense Media, a small street paper covering DC’s low-income and unhoused communities, because of its social impact. “The operation aligns with why I do journalism,” he says. “It’s about people.”

Each intern working at Street Sense Media is responsible for covering a different topic such as employment or housing. Often, however, the interns would collaborate on stories and share information in order to improve each other’s work. 

“Every week is a challenge of how to use our resources to help others,” Woolley explains. “Other publications with more capacity may get out ahead on breaking news, but we can find out what they missed and answer how it impacts residents’ everyday lives.” 

One example of this was the work each of the interns did covering DC cooling centers, which are used during heat emergencies in the city and have particular importance for unhoused residents. Though the story started as a brief response to DC declaring the heat emergency in July, Woolley says that it expanded quickly.  

“Several of us called each of the centers to see if they were actually operational and then we broke into teams and interviewed unhoused residents living in encampments around the city,” Woolley says. “I was able to contribute research I had already gathered about homelessness and health risks to the story as my contribution from the health care angle. By the end of the process, every intern had contributed in some way, and we had an article that could actually make people safer.”

Woolley started working at Street Sense with little experience covering health care. However, after a few weeks, he wrote about a wide range of topics including insurance policy, nutrition, hospital budgets and evictions. 

“There’s definitely been a learning curve because the field is so broad, but that’s also what makes the job engaging,” Woolley explains. “There’s always another story, and that story always demands you learn something new. I’m truly excited to take those lessons with me as I pursue more opportunities. I’ve met some incredible journalists and mentors at Street Sense Media, but beyond that I’ve made some really good friends.”

Creative Pursuits Beyond the Written Word

Woolley with friend and Voice colleague Sarah Watson (SFS’23), who also interned at Street Sense

Other than his work at the Voice, Woolley has also been active in the music scene on campus after teaching himself piano in his first year. The rising senior says that he sees his pursuit of music on campus as similar to his pursuit of journalism. 

“Writing music and writing an article both demand you articulate a narrative, almost to where it feels like you’re discovering the product as you write it,” Woolley explains. “It’s also a great feeling to know that something you made improved somebody else’s day, whether it be a song or a news story.”

Woolley also helped to run GU Politics’ student publication, On the Record, alongside Carly Kabot (SFS’23) during COVID-19, which he says “kept [him] sane during the pandemic.” 

Throughout the past year, Woolley frequently spoke with his mentor Ann Oldenburg, the assistant director of the Journalism Program, who taught his first journalism course in his sophomore year. Since then, he has also taken her Digital News class, where Oldenburg says she has learned “that John is not just a traditionally good journalist in that he’s determined, accurate and clear in his writing, he’s also a skilled multimedia journalist.”

“He has created delightful and informative news videos that feature not just his filming, but his own original musical compositions for the soundtracks,” she explains. “Our program is lucky to have him.”

Oldenburg also says that she was thrilled when John told her he was going to be interning at Street Sense this summer. 

“It seemed a perfect fit for his personality, which truly embodies Georgetown’s ideals — he’s kind, thoughtful and caring,” Oldenburg says. 

Woolley, who plans to continue writing and producing multimedia content for the Voice in his final year at the university, has one piece of advice for incoming students:

“If you haven’t considered journalism before, I highly recommend you give it a look — you’ll meet some of the greatest minds and nicest people and you’ll learn from them every single day.”

-by Shelby Roller (G’19)